In an arraignment at Bellevue Hospital on Tuesday, August 29, it was ordered that Matthew Colletta - the Woodhaven man accused of killing one and injuring six in a seven-hour spree of drug- and alcohol-fueled violence - be examined to determine whether he is fit to stand trial.
“If he is found fit, we will proceed,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown in a statement. “If not, he will be committed to a psychiatric institution where his status will be periodically reviewed. If at any time he is found to be fit, we will proceed with the criminal action.”
According to police, Colletta, a 34-year-old bricklayer who is diagnosed as manic depressive and bipolar, began his reign of terror at 7:20 p.m. on Friday, August 25, when he allegedly shot Andrew Leonik, 46, outside his home on 56th Drive in Maspeth as he was walking his dog.
Colletta, according to recent statements to police following his arrest, believed that the devil had given him the gun used in the spree. He has allegedly been tied to nine shootings. Of these, seven involved vehicles - five red, one gray and one yellow.
“I valet parked my car at Goldfingers [an adult club in Rego Park],” Colletta said in a transcript of a videotaped statement to cops. “Someone must have put that gun there. I don't have a gun, it's not mine.”
Colletta continued, “I was snorting coke and five bags of angel dust. I borrowed the gun from Lucifer. The cars started coming after me so I shot at them . . . They were coming after me in red vans…I shot at the cars to stop them. I had 100 bullets.”
According to the district attorney, the spree was triggered by the fact that Colletta's ex-girlfriend, Philomena Atkinson, 23, threw him out days earlier. Colletta told officials that he then lived in his car, a 1992 green Cadillac sedan, before the rampage.
In published reports, Atkinson said of Colletta, “He's a very nice guy. He always showed me respect. I'm shocked. I can't believe this happened.”
In total, three people were shot and four were injured by shards of glass.
The sole fatality, Todd Upton, 51, was shot in the neck on the Cross Island Parkway while he rode in his family’s new red minivan.
Mary Upton, 49, his wife, exited at Bell Boulevard and called 9-1-1, but doctors were unable to save Upton.
The Long Island family had been returning from dropping off their 21-year-old daughter, Angela, at Marist College.
Colletta was initially charged with murder in the second degree and numerous counts of felony assault and reckless endangerment, along with criminal possession of a weapon for the 9mm handgun allegedly used in the shootings.
However, following a search of his car, which turned up a loaded .22 caliber revolver and two bags of cocaine (found in his pants pocket), Colletta was additionally charged with possession of the other gun and the drugs.
He could face up to 25 years in prison if he does stand trial and is convicted.
“He is heavily medicated,” said Colletta's attorney, Todd Greenberg.
“He is informed about the allegations and extremely remorseful and can't believe he caused harm to people as they allege he did.”
Greenberg went on to tell The Queens Courier that if Colletta is deemed fit to be prosecuted, intent [of the crime] will become an issue.
“He [Colletta] was shooting at red cars - not at people,” said Greenberg.
However, the shooting spree was not Colletta's first run-in with the law.
On Sunday, August 20, he allegedly chased Atkinson with a hammer and threatened to smash in her head as he assaulted her. Charged with misdemeanor assault following the incident, he was released on his own recognizance and was ordered to stay away from Atkinson.
Colletta also has a past drug conviction.
SEVEN HOURS OF TERROR
The rampage of alleged shooter Matthew Colletta lasted seven hours and spanned from Woodhaven to Bayside. Below is a listing of the shooting and locations cops say were part of his reign of terror:
59-36 56th Drive. Andrew Leonik, 46, is shot in the right knee at 7:20 p.m. while he was walking his dog outside his home.
31-10 48th Avenue. Car window is shattered at 8:10 p.m., but the male driver is not injured.
114th Street and Liberty Avenue. Udai Khemnarine, 22, of Hempstead, Long Island, is shot in the left leg at 9:37 p.m.
Park Lane South and 101st Street. Colletta allegedly shoots at a car at 10:22 p.m. No one is hit.
Whitestone Expressway at 20th Avenue. Ramsemmy Veerapen, 30, and Adesh Polwah, 23, are both injured when the windows in the car are shattered by bullets at 11:01 p.m.
One minute later, on the Cross Island Parkway near the Whitestone Bridge, Colletta allegedly fatally shoots Todd Upton, 51, in the neck.
On the Whitestone Expressway at Third Avenue at 11:13 p.m., a red minivan is shot at but no one is hit.
A man was injured by flying glass at 11:37 p.m. at Booth Memorial Avenue and 137th Street.
Off duty Police Lieutenant Arnaldo Alvarado is injured by shattered glass in his red minivan at 1:30 a.m. at Metropolitan Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard.
Matthew Colletta is caught by police at 2:20 a.m. at 105th Street between Park Lane South and 85th Avenue. He is later brought to the 109th Precinct in Flushing.